Study lauds six for e-reports

IBM Business of Government report "E-Reporting: Strengthening Democratic Accountability"

A study on how federal agencies provide performance information online gives passing grades to six agencies and provides advice for other agencies on improving their public reports.

The IBM Center for the Business of Government released "E-Reporting: Strengthening Democratic Accountability," which presents criteria for how agencies should post reports on the agency's performance. Annual reports required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 usually contain performance data.

"E-reporting is a tool of e-democracy that conveys systematically and regularly information about government operations that is valuable to the public at large, in order to promote an informed citizenry in a democracy and accountability to public opinion," the report states, authored by Mordecai Lee, associate professor for governmental affairs at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

IBM Corp.'s center examined 27 federal Web sites that had some form of annual report, usually a GPRA report with some performance information. The average score for agencies was a B, since most had detailed performance information. Six agencies scored an A minus or better:

* The National Science Foundation received an A plus for its highly detailed and extensive GPRA report, which is accompanied by a user-friendly brochure highlighting certain points.

* The General Accounting Office scored an A plus for having a separate report of highlights which was easy to understand and well organized.

* The Environmental Protection Agency received an A. It has a lengthy, perhaps hard to find report, but the agency did include previous years' reports and a link to e-mail feedback.

* NASA got an A for a long, but well organized report.

* The State Department scored an A for a report with general highlight information and comparisons to data from previous years.

* The Consumer Product Safety Commission scored an A minus for a report that is visually appealing to the reader, although it was difficult to find online. Lee scored agencies on eight criteria, with a focus on two areas: use of performance information and use of e-government technology. The report examines the depth of the performance data presented, such as whether it is relevant with categories that are consistent from year to year. Agencies were also scored on how presentation criteria, such as whether there are links for more information and whether the contents are searchable.

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